It's one of those ideas that seems so simple you smack your forehead wondering why it took so long. Conventional airbags are sometimes demonized for causing injuries while attempting to save your life. It's easy to criticize something that has to be a one-size-fits-all solution, and SRS does an admirable job given the variables.
TRW has seen room for improvement, though, and have developed a new wheel and airbag system that allows the rim of the steering wheel to turn, while the airbag remains stationary. It's a neat trick using a circumferential gear, and TRW intimates that a European manufacturer has already signed on to use the system in their vehicles. The benefits of the non-rotating design include improved effectiveness of the airbag because the shape of the bag can be tailored to fit the interior better, and the stationary hub allows more controls to be placed there, enhancing comfort and convenience. We can't wait to see how this system looks all gussied up by the interior guys at companies like Audi and Jaguar. We'll have to see who comes out with it first, but we hope the airbag is at least big enough for us to stick our coffee there. Just kidding!

Press release after the jump

[Source: TRW via engadget]
PRESS RELEASE:

TRW Introduces Non-Rotating Driver Airbag Technology

ASCHAFFENBURG, Germany, Dec. 7 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- TRW Automotive Safety Systems GmbH, a subsidiary of TRW Automotive Holdings Corp. (NYSE: TRW), today unveiled its advanced asymmetrical airbag technology, incorporating a non-rotating driver airbag module with an airbag cushion specifically designed to fit the shape of individual vehicle interiors.

This next-generation steering wheel system increases the protection potential during different crash configurations, particularly for vehicles with extreme angled windshields and/or A-pillars in oblique crashes. This advanced system also enhances a vehicle's comfort and design.

Mehran Khazami, European engineering director for driver airbags and steering wheel systems, explained: "New car designs and safety regulations have challenged vehicle manufacturers to rethink the shape of the driver's side airbag. A crash simulation, based on regulated industry tests, showed that TRW's asymmetrical airbag technology provides very impressive safety benefits."

In addition to the safety benefits, having a stationary steering module allows automotive designers to add more convenience and aesthetic features to the steering wheel system. The non-rotating driver airbag module can accommodate the use of multifunction switches that remain in the same location, even when the steering wheel is being turned. Additional design elements and parts of the instrument panel display can also be integrated into the steering wheel module.

In order to uncouple the rotation of the steering wheel from the driver airbag module, TRW has developed a system with a circumferential gear to keep the airbag module in a stationary position.

The system utilizes direct force transmission from the steering wheel spokes into the steering column. This improves steering feel by giving the driver less resistance when the wheel is turned. Both steering wheel and steering column will maintain the same center and number of rotations; this eliminates the need to synchronize the number of rotations between wheel and steering column.

TRW's asymmetrical airbag has been launched with a major European vehicle manufacturer.

SOURCE: TRW Automotive Holdings Corp.

Web site: http://www.trwauto.com/


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